Nutanix partners with Dell and Cisco for HCI hardware offerings

Partnerships with Dell Technologies and Cisco aim to help enterprises transition from VMware platform to Nutanix AHV hypervisor as new technologies strengthen vendor's portfolio.

Nutanix is expanding the variety of hardware that its AHV hypervisor technology can run on in an effort to court enterprises that feel left behind by Broadcom's acquisition of VMware.

Dell hardware, Cisco hardware and existing VMware storage hardware configurations will support AHV hypervisor soon, according to Nutanix at its Next24 Conference in Barcelona, Spain this week.

The AHV hypervisor, previously named Acropolis, also gains new cyber resilience features, as the vendor eyes expansion into cloud technologies such as Kubernetes and platform-as-a-service offerings. Nutanix also seeks to court enterprise buyers through technology partnerships with vendors such as EntepriseDB and Nvidia.

Customer uncertainty about pricing or licensing changes to the VMware platform under Broadcom ownership has sown a fertile market for Nutanix, said Simon Robinson, an analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group.

"The window of opportunity is open and they're stamping down on the pedal," Robinson said. "They want to put themselves out there as the premier alternative to VMware."

AHV expansion

New AHV capabilities, still under development, are intended to let customers use AHV on Cisco UCS Blade servers, enabling them to keep their existing hardware, according to the vendor.

The partnership also helps appease existing Cisco customers that are facing end-of-life decisions around Cisco HyperFlex, which was discontinued last September. Cisco announced at that time it would support customers in migrating to Nutanix.

Nutanix and Dell Technologies also have partnered to make AHV and other Nutanix software available on Dell hardware. Dell's PowerFlex software-defined storage will be usable in a customer's AHV environment and the companies plan to launch a new appliance using Dell's hardware with Nutanix's software.

AHV now supports vSAN ReadyNode configurations as well, letting customers use existing storage hardware in their HCI stack, according to Nutanix.

The new research and development for the platform isn't entirely altruistic for customers, Robinson said, as Nutanix hopes to gain a foothold in more datacenters and among jilted VMware partners. The additions could make a platform shift easier for customers.

"All of that is about making it easier for customers," Robinson said. "It's difficult with the hardware aspect, the licensing aspect. [It's] a non-trivial operation to migrate from one HCI platform to another."

Platform enhancements available today for AHV include Secure Snapshot, requiring multi-party approval for changes privileged actions such as deleting snapshots and Automatic Cluster Selection, automating placement of new VMs for load balancing. An update still under development adds multi-site disaster recovery to Nutanix Metro Availability, a storage and backup automation service.

None of these additions significantly change the core technology of the AHV platform, said Mike Matchett, principal analyst and founder of Small World Big Data. Instead, the update adds to the variety of hardware it can run on without needing customers throw out their existing physical infrastructure entirely.

"That's a mentality that says they're going to broaden their hardware path, [but] it's not a huge technology shift," Matchett said.

Kubernetes and enterprise partnerships

The technology shift instead will come from Nutanix's push into more cloud focused offerings like the Nuntanix Kubernetes Platform (NKP), which the vendor expects to launch later this summer after announcing it last year.

NKP provides platforms engineering teams consistent Kubernetes platforms within the Nutanix environment on on-premises and hybrid cloud deployments, according to the vendor. Anticipated capabilities will include automation, interoperability with most cloud Kubernetes services and multiple pricing tiers, Nutanix said.

The forthcoming Kubernetes platform is one way for Nutanix to escape the perception of being a pure HCI company, Matchett said.

"Nutanix for years has been trying to become more of a cloud services provider rather than an HCI provider," he said. "That was how they've tried to compete with VMware."

Other partnerships touted by Nutanix include a new database offering that uses Nutanix Database Services with EnterpriseDB's PostgreSQL database as well as Generative AI tools capabilities with Nvidia and Hugging Face.

School shifts to Nutanix

Nutanix's messaging to establish itself as an enterprise-grade VMware alternative caught the attention of smaller buyers who still need virtualization, such as the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District in California.

The district, located just outside of San Jose and neighboring Palo Alto, educates about 4,400 students and employs about 700 teachers and other staff across two main campuses and a continuation school program.

I talked to a couple of my colleagues in the field, and they just want to actually get away from VMware to Nutanix.
Bob FishtromDirector of information technology services, Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District

Bob Fishtrom, director of information technology services for the district, said he and his team of eight employees used the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic throughout 2020 to refresh the district's aging technology infrastructure.

"We knew we had to make a move," Fishtrom said. "We're a small district, and we're a small team. Some districts have four people running their servers. I don't have that. I need something that's simple to use and works."

Key to that refresh was replacing the VMware HCI infrastructure purchased by the district previously, he said. The VMware platform was having difficulty maintaining uptime with little support, he said, and the prior infrastructure offered little in the way of redundancy.

"We were spending anywhere from six to ten hours a week dealing with patching, access levels and things of that nature. We were just kind of struggling in the end and not getting a lot of great support," he said. "I talked to a couple of my colleagues in the field, and they just want to actually get away from VMware to Nutanix."

The next licensing fee renewal for VMware would also pinch his department's budget compared to Nutanix.

"The ongoing cost with VMware was going to be about $125,000 a year," he said. "Instead, I'm locked into a five-year agreement with Nutanix that I think we did for $553,000 as a total [price]."

This refresh of software and hardware enabled Fishtrom and his team to enable failover for servers so students and staff can remain connected to the network even if an individual server goes offline.

"We have a process and procedure in place [to understand] what we have the virtual servers for, who has access and why," he said. "The impact on staff and students has been amazing because we've had no downtime. When the virtual server on VMware was down, it was down until we figured out how to get it back up [because] we didn't have the redundancy in place."

Tim McCarthy is a news writer for TechTarget Editorial covering cloud and data storage.

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